Backyards and outdoor rooms increasingly are becoming areas of additional functional living space for activities like cooking, relaxing and entertaining. A pergola can define or extend outdoor space by establishing boundaries, walls, and putting a roof over it all. Often used interchangeably with the words gazebo and cabana, a pergola is basically an outdoor shelter or structure with columns or posts and an open roof.
The word originates from the Italian word of the same name from the mid-1600s…MORE meaning a latticework structure for climbing plants, and from the Latin word pergula, which means something that projects or overhangs. It can be attached to a building-in this case, a house-or freestanding, and was originally intended to support and train vines, which would climb up the columns and up and over the open beams of the roof, creating more shade and a green roof.
A Brief History
Pergola-like structures were also used in ancient Egypt and consisted of roughly shaped pillars, but with each generation, the structures were better constructed and often painted or featured sculpted details. During the Italian Renaissance of the16th century, architects revived and improved upon the pergola concept as they paid homage to villas of ancient Rome, often sporting marble columns and supporting grape vines in the process.
“For our English gardens, we have the choice of various materials for the main structure. If the pergola is to be near enough to the house to be of some importance, the piers should be of the same material as the house walls-brick or stone as the case may be. Fourteen-inch brick piers laid in cement are excellent choices and easily made.”
Modern Pergolas: What to Look For
Freestanding or connected to a house, a pergola should be made of similar materials as the main structure, especially the roof, for consistency. This can also be achieved with color, particularly if the house is stucco and the look is carried through somewhere on the pergola’s columns, posts or walls.
While the ideal pergola is one that is built by a contractor or landscape professional, that is not always in every homeowner’s budget. Many prefabricated or simple-construct kits and models are available at a variety of prices-literally something for every budget.
- Reputation of brand or manufacturer, including consumer reviews.
- Instructions, which should be clear and easy to understand.
- Materials, which need to be well made, whether the pergola is wood, metal, or something else.
- Size: measure the space where the pergola will go, and make sure the one you are buying will fit. Also look at the space surrounding the structure, leaving room for traffic, landscaping, and existing garden features